NEW DELHI: Launched in an online event, because of rising cases of COVID-19 in India, Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 9 Pro is the successor to last year’s Redmi Note 8 Pro. At a starting price of 12,999, the Redmi Note 9 Pro comes in three different colours and offers two storage variants.

DESIGN

The Budget smartphone looks more polished than before, living up to the high design standards set by Xiaomi, Realme and Vivo in the segment. Its glass back exterior with aurora blue finish on top looks slick, while the thin bezel screen with the punch hole design is a lot less in your face, unlike phones that still wield wide notch, looking better than the ones with teardrop cutouts.

The square camera module, along the lines of latest iPhones and Pixel 4 smartphone, includes four cameras arranged in symmetry and adds to the phone's premium look and feel. The only niggle is that the module protrudes quite a bit to be ignored. Using a case is advisable.

The side panel is flatter and has a matte finish which does wonders for the grip quality. The one major difference between the Redmi Note 9 Pro and its predecessor is the size. It is bigger in size and will feel unwieldy for people with small hands, has a higher capacity 5,020mAh battery but at 209 gram weighs slightly more than predecessor's 200-gram form factor.

The side-facing fingerprint sensor, integrated within the power and screen lock/unlock button, looks smaller compared to in-display or back-facing sensors, but is as dependable and accurate as them.

The SIM tray is placed along the side panel and includes a dedicated micro SD slot, which means you can still go for the 64GB variant and if required expand it without compromising on the dual SIM slot capability.

DISPLAY

The 6.67-inch LCD screen on the Redmi Note 9 Pro is bigger than the 6.5-inch screen of its predecessor or rival Realme 6. While on paper it just seems a tad bigger, but in reality it does feel more spacious providing more legroom for work, watching movies or gaming. It has a healthy resolution of 2,400x1080p which is more than adequate for reading, work or watching movies. However, it lacks the vibrancy of the Redmi K20--starting at 19,999-- as colours look a bit dull giving it a slightly underwhelming appearance during games and video playback.

SOFTWARE

Gone are the days when Xiaomi used to straddle with a one-year old version of Android OS with the promise of the next version coming in an update. Higher expectations with the brand and fierce competition from other Chinese vendors have made them offer latest software and hardware in new phones. In case of Redmi Note 9 Pro, running on top of Android 10 is Xiaomi's MIUI 11. It has a lot of fluff, but many of them are actually useful. Not to forget that it is one of the most polished looking custom UIs in Android out there. Among rivals in the budget segment, Realme is catching up and has a very user friendly and good looking custom UI as well.

PERFORMANCE

Driving the Redmi Note 9 Pro is Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 720G, which supports India’s satellite navigation system, NavIC, which is expected to offer more accurate location results. Coupled with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage (base variant), the phone’s handling of everyday tasks to running more resource intensive games like the Asphalt 9 at medium graphics settings turned out to be by and large niggle free. The Snapdragon 720G does use a gaming optimised chipset but it is not in the same league as the Redmi K20 Pro and on higher graphics settings frame drops are clearly visible.

Battery backup is impressive and can see off a full day of modest to heavy usage.

CAMERA

Multiple cameras are becoming the norm in budget phones. To cover all shooting scenarios, the Redmi Note 9 Pro has got a 48MP primary camera, 8MP ultra wide angle camera to capture more objects in the scenario, 5MP macro camera for really close up shots of tiny objects and 2MP depth camera for Bokeh shots.

The 48MP camera is not active by default but there is a shortcut button on the camera app screen. The macro mode is tucked away in the camera menu. Close-up shots with the macro camera do not look very sharp but in good light can come in very handy and add variety to your Instagram posts.

The 48 MP camera can pull in a lot of detail and even in landscape photos impresses with colour reproduction. Shots in indoor conditions look a bit washed out, though.

The 16MP front camera doesn't have as many modes, but it can muster sharp looking photos in well lit conditions, which makes it good enough for regular selfies.

VERDICT

Overall, the Redmi Note 9 Pro is a significant upgrade to its predecessor and is on a par with other aggressively priced competitors such as the Realme 6 (also starts at 12,999), which runs on an equally capable MediaTek Helio G90T processor with 4GB RAM (base variant), has four cameras with 64MP primary camera. It has a smaller 6.5-inch screen but higher refresh rate of 90Hz, which makes it more suited for gaming. If you can splurge slightly more, we would recommend the Poco X2 (starts at 15,999), which has a 6.67-inch screen with an even higher 120HZ refresh rate.

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